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The King of Staten Island Pete Davidson walking two kids home from school

Sometimes, all it takes is the right partner to turn the creative tide of a project like The King of Staten Island. With the film garnering some pretty strongly positive reactions for Pete Davidson’s central performance, one has to wonder how different his original version would have been. This is especially true after hearing from Davidson and writer/director Judd Apatow about just what type of movie the dramedy would have been.

During the press day for The King of Staten Island, our own Eric Eisenberg was present to speak with Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson, on behalf of CinemaBlend. Curious how the semi-autobiographical film evolved into its final form, he asked both Apatow and Davidson how this process took shape. Which yielded this revelation from the SNL alum:

When we first wrote it, me and my writing partner Dave [Sirus], before we turned it in to Judd, it was about 90 pages of just fart jokes. And then Judd weaved it into this beautiful story of a family overcoming a tragedy. I just think that was the appropriate way to show this film.

Left to their own devices, it sounds like Pete Davidson and Dave Sirus’ draft of The King of Staten Island could have been more of a comedic romp with touches of drama here and there. Which isn’t a bad prospect, as that’s how most of Judd Apatow’s previous films like The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up, and most recently Trainwreck have all played out.

But Judd Apatow, as much of a comedic genius as he is, had a very specific type of movie in mind when he applied his pen to The King of Staten Island’s reshaping. During the interview, he mentioned films like two James L. Brooks classics Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News as high water marks when it came to the type of film he wanted to replicate.

In addition to his work on The King of Staten Island’s story, Judd Apatow went into the production and editing of the film’s entirety in the following context:

This was just a chance to really honor the dramatic story and I thought, 'Well, I’ll let the comedy tell me in what amount it should be present.' […] We didn’t want it to ruin the story. We didn’t want it to feel like we were reaching for a joke, when we weren’t serving the story.

You can watch Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson both tell their stories behind the making of The King of Staten Island, courtesy of the interview clip below:

It’s the type of precision and collaboration you’d expect from Judd Apatow, a man who has been known to audio record test audiences to see where the laughs happen in any given film he’s testing. Knowing the rhythm of a story like the one that Pete Davidson was trying to tell in The King of Staten Island is one of his many talents. Which makes this collaboration another example of how the right partner is never a bad idea.

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